If you haven't been following the Lily the Black Bear den cam over the last couple of months, then you've missed quite a show! With a Facebook following of almost 100,000 fans in only two months, Lily and her cub - named Hope - have seemingly become worldwide sensations and have helped change a lot of people's ideas about what black bears are really like. Now that it's late March, Lily and Hope will be leaving the den soon and leaving the day-to-day lives of their loyal fans, so if you haven't been watching (and, honestly, why haven't you been watching?), now is a good time to give you a peek into what you've missed.
First is a video clip of Lily giving birth to Hope on Friday January 22. This video alone dispelled one myth about bears: that they sleep all winter, give birth in their sleep, and wake up in the spring with cubs. As you can clearly see, Lily is very much awake when the little bundle of joy arrives. After the birth, a bear hunter posted on the Lily Facebook page that he would never again shoot a bear after hearing the cub cry like a human baby.
Next is a "highlight" clip showing mother/daughter moments in the den, Hope being left on her own when Lily goes out to forage. If you listen, now and then you can hear the chipmunk chatter of Hope as she nurses. I believe it's clearest towards the end. This is a sound that bear cubs make to let their mothers know that they're content. http://www.bear.org/website/lily-a-hope/den-cam-video-clips/361-march-13-2010-den-highlights.html
Finally, a clip of Lily and Hope playing in the den. After two months of Hope keeping Lily awake almost every night, Lily turns the tables and Hope doesn't like it very much. This also shows that bears do not sleep all winter. In fact, they're wide awake most of the time and occasionally leave the den to stretch for a few hours.
Over the last week, as the weather's been getting warmer, Lily has been leaving the den more and more, leaving Hope behind to exercise her legs and adjust to Mama's abscence. Hope viciously protested this at first but has become more accepting of it over the past few days as her legs are getting stronger. Finally, early this afternoon, Lily left the den and took Hope with her. Five hours later, they returned for the night. This should be seen as a sign that they will soon be leaving the den for good, so if you haven't watched the Lily cam yet, you should while there's still time. You can view it at either www.bear.org/website/lily-a-hope/live-den-cam.html or www.wildearth.tv/static/wildearth/channels/we_bear_den.html They're well worth a watch.
Lynn Rogers - owner of the North American Bear Center, near where Lily has made her den - monitors and tracks the movements of the bears in this area by fitting them with radio collars. This should also protect them from hunters, but it doesn't and Lynn has lost several black bears that were supposed to be radio-collar protected. Currently the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is debating on illegalizing the hunting of radio-collared black bears, but it remains iffy as to whether or not they will enforce that law. Lynn is very close with Lily and is doing everything he can to ensure that he doesn't lose her. He visits the den every few days and Lily always comes out to greet him, cooing softly to the cub, assuring her that they are in no danger, but she is wary of people she doesn't know and would not approach a hunter with a gun. That doesn't make her any safer, unfortunately.
To help the Minnesota DNR make the right decision in regards to protecting radio-collared research bears, many of Lily's Facebook fans have been sending them letters and e-mails and signing petitions, hoping to make a difference. Below is a link to a video that I edited and captioned. It's an idea that I had in a dream and it stayed with me for days until I decided to make it a reality. I would love to e-mail it to the Minnesota DNR in the hopes that it might have an impact: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d036Tk0zMTQ